LEWIS — Fire devastated a garage at 528 Stowersville Road here Wednesday afternoon, spilling oil and spewing toxic fumes.
When firefighters first arrived after being summoned at 3:30 p.m., the structure was fully engulfed in flame, Lewis Volunteer Fire Department Chief Peter Evans said.
Along with that department, Elizabethtown, Westport, Wadhams, Willsboro, Reber, Keeseville and Whallonsburg volunteer fire departments, the Essex County Hazardous Materials Team, Essex County Air One, fire investigators and coordinators and Elizabethtown-Lewis EMS were all at the fire.
Port Henry, Ausable Forks and Mineville crews stood by at other departments’ stations.
Evans estimated that at least 50 fire personnel responded.
Evans said a waste-oil burner being used to heat the garage had caught fire.
"There was a lot of stored waste oil that was inside the building," along with brand new oil, he said.
"There were also tractor-trailer tires stored out back of it."
Additionally, firefighters had to keep gas and fuel tanks outside the building from exploding.
Deborah and James Pulsifer own the property and had a logging business, the chief said.
Evans believed they sold their logging trucks a while ago but said some dump trucks remained.
Fire personnel initially attacked the fire with tankers of water, using foam then and later in the fight.
"Once we got all the tankers in, we were dropping a tanker every three minutes," which comes to an average of 2,000 gallons of water per load, Evans said.
"We were feeding with tankers, plus we were feeding off the hydrant system, too."
After the roof collapsed, an excavator was brought in to pull tin out of the way so firefighters could get to the flames underneath.
"There's two walls standing, but it's a total loss," Evans said.
They tried to have an Essex County Department of Transportation truck bring a load of sand to block oil runoff from the building, Evans said.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation was there Thursday looking at what can be done to clean up the oil.
Evans believes they are considering digging up and removing any contaminated dirt.
Evans had firefighters use air packs, due to the toxic fumes rising from the burning oil and tires.
He had two reports of people falling on slick roads while filling tankers.
The chief did not know for certain if the Pulsifers had insurance on the building, which was so large that it probably could have housed two tractor-trailers at once, Evans said.
The Pulsifers did not return a call Thursday afternoon.
The departments were back in service around 8:30 p.m.
The Lewis crew returned for a short time Thursday afternoon for a small rekindle, an Essex County dispatcher said.
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